The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?” is by Anthony Soohoo, cofounder and CEO, Dot & Bo.
From a very young age, many of us are conditioned to believe that failure is something to fear. While the end goal of any endeavor is without a doubt success, society tends to highlight incredible business stories while sweeping aside any hardships the entrepreneur may have faced along the way. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time in the tech and media industry at Apple (AAPL), Yahoo (YHOO), CBS Interactive (CBS) and co-founder and CEO of Dot & Bo, it’s that embracing and acknowledging failure is just as critical as success.
Growing up, I watched my parents work tirelessly, facing numerous hardships while raising a family. Their resilience and confidence taught me to look for the light in any seemingly dark situation. Finding the positive within your own failure affords you a moment of clarity — a chance to reflect, improve, and make things better. In the now widely circulated “7 Rejections” Medium post, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky brought to light how his team was turned down by prominent investors on their quest to raise capital. While this is just a snapshot of the numerous rejections they likely encountered, I’ll bet that Chesky was initially devastated to fail, but he might also say that it was a profoundly deeper learning experience than if Airbnb was simply handed funding right off the bat.
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When I got together with my co-founders in 2013, we spent a good portion of our time testing out several concepts before launching Dot & Bo. Initially, each idea and mock up we developed for the company was completely and utterly wrong. During the first five months of building the company, we essentially failed every single day. From our merchandise mix to our marketing messages to hiring people that just weren’t a fit, the experience was one big “aha” moment that something wasn’t working. However, embracing those struggles redefined our vision of moving beyond a company that sold furniture, to creating a brand that would inspire and enable people to create their dream living spaces. Here are two of the most important lessons I learned:
If you’re going to experience failure, try to make sure it’s big flop versus a minor mishap
If we had only failed on a small scale, we might have believed it to be a fluke and steered the company down the wrong path. While some of the initial concepts we had explored were completely wrong, over time we became smarter about our products. Failing fast and hard enables you to quickly navigate the ever-evolving entity that is your business.
Never stop trying to fail
If failure is the prerequisite of success, businesses can no longer afford not to encourage risk taking. At Dot & Bo, we believe in launching projects quickly and iterating rapidly on those that show signs of success, while acknowledging initiatives that fall flat. Continuous feedback is helpful in assisting your team to grow both professionally and personally.Whether you’re building an ecommerce company or a niche brick-and-mortar store, every mistake you make is an opportunity to grow and reflect on how to improve. After all, the best success stories typically have a healthy dash of hardship in them, right?
Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: “What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?”
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